Destroying a Democracy to Save It: Robert Reich Calls for Blocking Trump from Ballots as a Traitor

Robert Reich, the Berkeley professor and the former labor secretary under Clinton, has been known for his increasing anti-free speech views through the years including characterizing the restoration of free speech on social media as tyranny. He now believes that former President Donald Trump can be barred from running for president in 2024 because he “committed treason,” according to a new column in The Guardian. The argument is entirely without merit, but that does not prevent the media from repeating this flawed but cathartic claim.Reich makes an argument voiced by many on cable news that Trump is barred under “the explicit language of section three of the 14th amendment to the constitution, which prohibits anyone who has held public office and who has engaged in insurrection against the United States from ever again serving in public office.” Reich latched upon the long-dormant provision in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — the “disqualification clause” — which was written after the 39th Congress convened in December 1865 when many members were shocked to see Alexander Stephens, the Confederate vice president, waiting to take a seat with an array of other former Confederate senators and military officers.Justice Edwin Reade of the North Carolina Supreme Court later explained, “[t]he idea [was] that one who had taken an oath to support the Constitution and violated it, ought to be excluded from taking it again.” So, members drafted a provision that declared that

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

The Disqualification Clause has also been used by Democrats like Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) who demanded the disqualification of the 120 House Republicans. Democratic lawyer Marc Elias also pushed this absurd claim. 

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has fueled these efforts and declared that “it is essential that we preserve the narrative of January 6th.” Part of that narrative is that this was not a riot but an “insurrection,” an actual “rebellion” against our country. Pelosi’s concern over the viability of that narrative is well-based as shown by a CBS News poll. The majority of the public does not believe that this was an “insurrection” despite the mantra-like repetition of members of Congress and the media. The public saw that terrible day unfold a year ago and saw it for what it was: a protest that became a riot.

Jan. 6 was a national tragedy. I publicly condemned President Trump’s speech that day while it was being given — and I denounced the riot as a “constitutional desecration.” However, it has not been treated legally as an insurrection. Those charged for their role in the attack that day have largely faced trespass and other less serious charges — rather than insurrection or treason.  Only a dozen or so individuals have faced seditious conspiracy charges, which is a broad crime that covers intentionally interfering with an official proceeding.

Trump has not been charged over his role on January 6th. Nevertheless, Reich views the necessity of a charge, let alone a conviction, as a triviality.

“Can any of us who saw (or have learned through the painstaking work of the January 6 committee) what Trump tried to do to overturn the results of the 2020 election have any doubt he will once again try to do whatever necessary to regain power, even if illegal and unconstitutional?”

Reich believes that this is all that is required to bar the leading candidate running on the Republican side. Imagine the implications of what he is suggesting. He would bar candidates based solely on how he viewed their conduct in prior years as fostering insurrection.

“Filing deadlines for 2024 presidential candidates will come in the next six months, in most states. Secretaries of state – who in most cases are in charge of deciding who gets on the ballot – must refuse to place Donald Trump’s name on the 2024 ballot, based on the clear meaning of section three of the 14th amendment to the US constitution.”

While consistent with someone who warned that free speech is tyranny, this is not the defense but the denial of democracy. Under Reich’s approach, Republicans could bar Hillary Clinton or others from the ballot for what they viewed as treasonous acts. No criminal charge or conviction is needed. It is just based on “what we saw” in prior years.

Justice Louis Brandeis once warned that “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” From his call to limit free speech to his effort to bar opposing candidates from ballots, Robert Reich is rapidly becoming one of those dangerous men of zeal.



201 thoughts on “Destroying a Democracy to Save It: Robert Reich Calls for Blocking Trump from Ballots as a Traitor”

  1. “given aid to the enemy?” Hmmmm….Biden?…..China?… much aid to an enemy does it take?

  2. I watched part of the video, and I saw 1 person spray something, then a few people resist violently when arrested. That doesn’t show that they’re fascists. Anti-racism doesn’t “means dividing and defining people by race.” Racism exists, and there is no way to discuss its history or fight it without acknowledging it. No one should be assaulted, and I also don’t believe in shouting speakers down, but it’s hardly the case that all trans activists do that.

    Just as I don’t overgeneralize about those on the right based on those who were violent or committed seditious conspiracy on 1/6, or those who chant “Jews shall not replace us”, or …, you shouldn’t overgeneralize about those on the left based on the actions of a small subset. This tendency to overgeneralize doesn’t serve us on either side.

    1. “I watched part of the video, and I saw 1 person spray something, then a few people resist violently when arrested. That doesn’t show that they’re fascists.”

      Look at the videos where Andy Gno was nearly killed. You seem to live the life of those three monkeys, deaf, dumb and blind.

    2. Anonymous, the left arranged for the bail of these thugs in Portland. If that action was not support for ANTIFA and BLM than what was it.

      1. I’ll wait for you to provide the names of “these thugs” and evidence that “the left arranged for” their bail. Your claim, your burden of proof. But I won’t hold my breath.

        No doubt you’ll also complain that a judge determined them to be eligible for bail, and if the judge was nominated by a Democrat, you’ll blame him too, but if he was nominated by a Republican, you’ll give him a pass, right?

        1. “Thirteen members of Biden’s campaign staff donated to bail and — rioters — they’re getting them out of jail. Looters — they got them out of jail. And his running mate, Kamala, urged their supporters to do the same thing.”

          “Kamala Harris tweeted support for a bail fund, but the money didn’t just assist protesters”

    3. . . . you shouldn’t overgeneralize about those on the left based on the actions of a small subset.

      Fair enough. But I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. If you watch the many other videos out there of Antifa, I think you’ll find similarities to the fascist tactics in Italy and Germany. Riley gains being shouted down is not an isolated incident; it almost is always those on the Left doing the cancelling, and in many cases justifying it on the basis of their (the cancellers’) freedom of speech. The “semi-fascist” label is placed by the highest government official in America on the very people who are most opposed to fascism. People who love freedom are gaslit by being called freedom-haters. Conservatives – derided by the president as “ultra-MAGA extremists” – are for smaller government, against censorship of political opponents, against the corporate-government complex which perpetrates it. Everything is backwards. Everything is backwards

      We live in an extraordinary moment in history in which the culture has become certifiably insane. So many barriers are being crossed, again, mostly by those on the Left. The unnecessary raid of a former president’s home; the indictment of a former president on spurious charges; the leak of a Supreme Court opinion; the mainstreaming of mutilation of children under the guise of “gender affirming care”; drag shows and sexualized skimpily-clad dancers for six year olds popping up everywhere; an entire pharmaceutical industry making billions off of giving experimental drugs to the entire population, with their enablers forcing people against their will to be experimented on by government mandates (and so so many deaths and illnesses coming from those drugs); the government teaming up with social media companies in a balls-to-the-wall effort at mass censorship of conservative or alternative opinions on virtually all the sensitive political issues of the day; an administration that has ceded control of the border to Mexican cartels, intentionally inducing millions of illegal crossing per year not to mention a huge influx of drug and sex trafficking which is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year with fentanyl and ruining many many young girls’ lives as they are forced into prostitution; a spate of soft-on-crime prosecutors in nearly every big city which is (intentionally) causing violent crime to skyrocket; the use of over 100 billion dollars of our taxpayer money on a corrupt war which is leading fast to World War II and nuclear Armageddon, the incurring of tens of trillions more dollars in national debt which is leading to national bankruptcy, and on and on.

      You may not feel the brunt of the systematic attack on all traditional sensibilities of decency and truth – that’s rights, there is an all out attack on truth – but I do, and that makes me less and less willing as time goes on to give the benefit of the doubt to the people doing this to us. In these highly unusual circumstances, I think most of my generalizations are justified.

      1. There are simply too many issues in your comment to respond to them all, so I’ll pick a few.

        I’ll start with the treatment of trans people.

        Have you ever had a sincere conversation with a trans person?

        If not, you should.

        You believe that there’s “mainstreaming of mutilation of children under the guise of ‘gender affirming care.’” I don’t believe that. I think biology is more complex than a lot of people understand or want to admit. All sorts of variations occur. Some people are born intersex, for example (it looks like there’s a good documentary coming out this summer about intersex people, Every Body). Some people are born with one of several sex chromosome variations (e.g., XXY, trisomy X, XXYY, XYY, XO). And some people are born trans. We’re learning more about the biology of trans people, such as:
        If someone’s brain is female but their sexual reproductive system is male, or vice versa, why would you force their sexual reproductive system to be prioritized over their brain? As I argued when it comes to abortion: our brains are where our personalities lie, they are the most essential part of who we are as people. Trans people don’t feel like they’re being mutilated when they get gender-affirming care. Why do you think you know better than they do?

        You say “it almost is always those on the Left doing the cancelling.” How on earth do you calculate this? I doubt that there’s any compendium of all acts of cancellation that let’s you calculate the percentage based on comprehensive data. I also doubt that you have a way of generating a random or representative sample. If I’m wrong about that, just say how you came up with your sample. Same for you claim about “other videos out there of Antifa.” How did you sample? What percentage of your sample included people who were peaceful?

        Then there’s your opinion that there was an “unnecessary raid of a former president’s home.” Trump was subpoenaed for the return of the documents marked classified, he nonetheless kept many, he had one of his lawyers falsely claim that a thorough search had been carried out and they’d all been returned, there was at least one witness telling the DOJ that that was false, and a judge determined there to be probable cause for a warrant. If Trump had simply cooperated, like Pence and Biden did, there wouldn’t have been a raid. Pence and Biden both agreed to have the FBI carry out searches; Trump did not. Special counsels have been appointed for both Trump and Biden, they’ve been investigating, and now we wait and see whether they believe that charges should be brought.

        “there is an all out attack on truth”

        I don’t think there’s an all out attack. I do think that some people lie because they think it serves them, some don’t care about what’s true, and some people are deluded and so believe that something false is actually true. For example, Trump makes an exceptional number of false statements: It’s hard to know whether they’re lies or not (i.e., purposefully false statements made with the intent of deceiving); perhaps he’s deluded and believes them, or he just doesn’t care. I also think that it’s increasingly easy for people to live in information bubbles where they don’t encounter views that are different than their own or even facts that contradict what they’d rather believe. For example, part of what came out in the Dominion v Fox discovery was that Fox was sometimes knowingly telling falsehoods because it was what they thought their audience wanted to hear. Fox lawyers argued in a different suit (McDougal v Fox) that Tucker Carlson’s audience doesn’t expect him to be “stating actual facts,” and the judge agreed that “This “general tenor” of the show should then inform a viewer that he is not “stating actual facts” about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary.” … Fox persuasively argues … that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer “arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism” about the statements he makes.” Now, I wouldn’t tune in to someone whose claims regularly require skepticism, but he clearly had a lot of fans.

        1. Killing the kids isn’t the answer. Mutilating the kids isn’t the answer. I won’t be gaslit any more. I won’t submerge what I know to be true to what this demonic culture is telling me. Western civilization is committing child sacrifice, and it cannot survive that way.

          1. oldmanfromkansas,

            As I’ve commented in our exchanges elsewhere, people may have different opinions but should be able to agree on facts.

            Can you agree to the fact that people are born with diverse variations?
            Can you agree to the fact that some people are born intersex?
            Can you agree to the fact that some people are born with one of several sex chromosome variations (e.g., XXY, trisomy X, XXYY, XYY, XO)?

            Are you willing to read more about the biology of trans people, such as the research I linked to in my previous comment?

            You didn’t answer: if someone’s brain is female but their sexual reproductive system is male, or vice versa, why would you force their sexual reproductive system to be prioritized over their brain? Why do you think you know better than they do?

            As for “Mutilating the kids isn’t the answer,” do you always believe that surgery is “mutilation”? For example, do you believe that circumcision and breast augmentation/reduction are mutilation?

            Re: “I won’t submerge what I know to be true,” what are you referring to? Just as I’ve presented some facts and ask whether you accept them, you can present facts and ask if I accept them.

            1. Can you agree to the fact….?
              Can you agree to the fact …?
              Can you agree to the fact …?

              Can you agree a woman is XO?
              Can you agree a man is XY?

              Can you agree men don’t belong in the little girl’s bathroom or changing room?
              Can you agree men should not be competing against women?

        2. If someone’s brain is female but their sexual reproductive system is male, or vice versa, why would you force their sexual reproductive system to be prioritized over their brain?

          How does a human brain have different sex chromosomes than the sexual reproductive system?

          That sounds like science fiction.

          1. Michael T. Ejercito — Just guessing:

            Suppose the fertilized cell starts off, unfortunately, as XXY but that after a number of cell divisions some of the cells are XX while others are XY. Chromosome duplication is not perfect.

  3. Professor Turley,

    I generally think application of this provision to Trump is a stretch, but I don’t understand categorically shutting it down because no charges have been filed. Where in the text is that required? How does one get charged/convicted by providing “comfort” to enemies of the US? If it is impossible to meet this invented threshold for materiality, then what is the purpose of this language?

    And finally, could the offer to pardon everyone involved in J6 be considered “comfort”?

    To me, his offer to pardon those convicted is exceedingly troubling.

    1. To add additional context, the founding fathers originally connected the “aid and comfort” language to the pardon power:

      The possibility that the president might use the power to pardon as a means by which to protect those with whom he had conspired to do harm to the United States by “adhering to,” or giving “aid and comfort” to, its enemies, led to one of the most important, but least remembered, exchanges in debate over whether the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia should become the Constitution of the United States.

      On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 18, 1788, George Mason rose from his chair on the floor of the Virginia Ratifying Convention deeply troubled by what he thought of the convention’s failure to understand—the president of the United States might not always be someone of sound character and high intelligence. There would rarely, if ever, he reminded the delegates, be a commander in chief with the courage and rectitude displayed by George Washington during the War of Independence. There might even be a president who would try to change our form of government. The president, argued Mason,

      “ought not to have the power of pardoning, because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection? The case of treason ought, at least, to be excepted. This is a weighty objection with me.”

      1. His argument was rejected, because the need for the pardon power, as a safety valve, is too great.

        You have heard the argument about 100 guilty men, right? Marc Rich being pardoned is the trade-off that we made.

        Of course, if aid and comfort were to extend to legal; acts, then there is no logical stopping point. the following could be considered aid and comfort:

        – acting as a criminal defense attorney for an insurrectionist
        – a judge granting a motion to suippress evidence against an accused insurrectionist
        – a juror voting to acquit an accused insurrectionist.
        – an appeals court judge voting to overturn the conviction of an accused insurrectionist
        – speaking out against the treatmenrt of an accused insurrectionist

        Remember how people in Congress decried the use of stormtroopers®™ and unmarked vans®™ against people rioting against a courthouse in Portland? By your reasoning, they were providing aid and comfort to insurrectionists and should be disaqualified under the 14th Amendment.

      1. Your statement assumes that “aid and comfort” must be illegal. How do you arrive at that assumption? Is it it the Constitution?

  4. Trump is a hero for standing up to the Swamp. Trump could have played along to get along, his acquiescence to the swamp’s agenda would have produced two terms, no impeachments, and a level of personal and professional tranquility he, and his abused family, can only imagine. People who claim to believe those currently in power have the best interests of the USA in mind are liars. There are too many fires burning to believe such lies. Unfortunately, the known fires are but a tip of the iceberg, there are fires raging across the world where the swamp has been able to keep lidded, for now.

  5. Turley: “Robert Reich is rapidly becoming one of those dangerous men of zeal.”


    And without understanding.

  6. While consistent with someone who warned that free speech is tyranny, this is not the defense but the denial of democracy.

    Nothing new here. With the Left in America, everything is the opposite of what it really is. They’d say the sun rises in the west and sets in the east if it would help them get power and destroy their political opponents.

    1. I’m on the left, and you and I had a long exchange where I did nothing the sort. Do you really think that kind of hyperbolic caricature is helpful?


      1. Anon – When I say “Left” with a capital L, I’m talking about things like CRT, in which “anti-racism” means racism, Antifa, in which anti-fascist means fascist, radical trans activists who consider it a “human right” to deny women’s rights, people (including commenters like Svelaz) who say that preventing others from speaking is free speech, and people who – as Professor Turley points out – advocate anti-democratic methods supposedly in service of democracy. Those are examples of the opposite world I was referring to.

        I surmised from our earlier conversations that you would probably call yourself liberal, but I see a big difference between liberals and “the Left.” The former (such as yourself) are people of good faith with whom I have honest disagreements; the latter are not at all of good faith.

        Do you have a suggestion of how I could be more precise in my terminology?

        1. No, I don’t have a suggestion. I also don’t agree that anti-racism means racism, that anti-fascist means fascist, or that trans activists are denying women’s rights.

          1. If you watch the video of the Antifa thugs in the other article the professor posted today, you’ll see what I mean about Antifa being fascists. Today, “anti-racism” means dividing and defining people by race. Swimmer Riley Gains tried to promote women’s rights in athletics at San Francisco State University but she was assaulted and prevented from speaking about women’s rights by trans activists shouting “trans rights are human rights”.

        2. Old man from Kansas and Anonymous.
          I hope you two keep it up.
          You’re engaging in something that I thought was impossible today:
          a conversation.

        3. (Different Anonymous)

          Statements like this make me question what you believe CRT is: “… CRT, in which “anti-racism” means racism”

          CRT is not “anti-racism” – those are two concepts that are often erroneously conflated. CRT is a legal theory. When I was in law school, it was a course (that I did not take). Ibram X. Kendi’s “anti-racism” is not a legal theory, and he doesn’t want it to be.

          (Side note: I am not a proponent of either, but I have a problem with arguments that fail to properly define the terms with which they attempt to attack.)

          I also don’t know which radical trans activists you claim consider it a “human right” to deny women’s rights. Perhaps there are some, but that is hardly a mainstream position. I do know that Montana legislators denied a trans legislator her free speech rights by kicking her out of the state house for her speech, which, despite their claims, was not in violation of any “decorum” rules. All it did was, perhaps, poke holes in their “safe space.” I am anti-safe spaces and would think that conservatives would agree with me. If you don’t agree with her arguments… perhaps respond with… speech rather than kicking her out.

          Which brings me to your last claim… Do you think that kicking her out of the Montana legislator = thus preventing her from speaking – advances free speech? Does this advance democracy? If it doesn’t, perhaps you may want to revise your attribution of this claim as a trait of the “Left.” As a proponent of free speech, this happens on both sides of the aisle.

          1. “CRT is a legal theory.”

            You’re conflating CLT and CRT.

            CLT is racism and collectivism applied to the law. CRT is racism and collectivism applied to, well, everything.

            1. CLT is not specific to race. CRT is an offshoot of CLT that focuses on race. Here is an example from Duke law. Under critical legal studies are courses on CRT and women/gender for example.

              So I am not sure where you are getting this misconception. Regardless, old man from Kansas still is incorrect but does not want to stand behind his diatribe above

Leave a Reply